| Bharat Chetri |
London: It seems that coach Michael Nobbs has added the much needed spunk to the Indian hockey team. After taking the reins of the team last year, he has made some technical changes, the most significant of them is bringing in an attacking playing style. The tactics has come good in several important matches, especially in the qualifiers, where India scored numerous goals.
But, on Wednesday, when India take on New Zealand in the crucial group league match, the eight-time Olympic champions are unlikely to pursue the same policy. After all, any wrong move in this match can send India out of the competition as they have already lost their opener against the Netherlands.
However, for India, their opponents are also facing an early exit after losing 0-2 to South Korea.
“We are definitely going to remain cautious in the first half… The aim is not to concede early goals like in our opening match,” a source in the team said.
“If things remain on even terms in the first session, we would definitely go on the offensive,” he added.
New Zealand, too, are former Olympic champions and had beaten India in the last encounter between the two teams in the Azlan Shah Cup, the tournament they won early this year.
But despite all the odds, India will start as the favourites because of their good performance in the second half against the Dutch.
India could definitely consider themselves unlucky as they could not log any points on Monday, that too, after dishing out such an impressive performance in the second half.
But Nobbs was not too impressed. “Hockey is more about scoring goals than creating chances. Shivendra Singh alone muffed at least half a dozen opportunities,” said the coach with great disappointment.
“The boys had done a lot of hard work and it was quite baffling that they did not put all the practice into play in the first half against the Netherlands,” the coach added.
Speaking of chances, India could earn only one penalty corner against the Dutch. Much to the chagrin of the chagrin of the Indian fans, VR Raghunath wasted the penalty corner. It also minimised the role of drag flicker Sandeep Singh as he was played less than 20 minutes in the entire match.
“It is not easy to earn corners on this blue turf. Even the Netherlands also got only two,” said captain Bharat Chetri.
And converting from the penalty corners is not the only concern for Nobbs.
At the start of the Games, Nobbs emphasised on the fitness level of his players. But India did slacken against the Dutch towards the end of the game, especially after drawing level at 2-2.
Under such a scenario, India will need to seize the early initiative and sustain it throughout the match.